Received on February 7th, 2021
Dear Dr Jones,
I’m a journalist in Melbourne, Australia, looking into a fascinating life of long ago, which criss-crossed that of Ralph Lyall Clayton.
On the Grafton’s visit to San Francisco in May 1903, your book records: ‘At San Francisco, one of the Midshipmen, Vernon, deserted and was not found, hardly a usual occurrence, as Ralph said, although there was a case in the Mediterranean of two Mids deserting…a lot about it in the papers.’
The midshipman, George Valentine Jeffray Vernon, is the subject of my enquiries. He was the son of a famous English cricketer; seven years later, in Australia, he committed an infamous murder. He was acquitted at trial, but later committed suicide having made a sensational confession to John Bull magazine.
I wondered whether, at any point, Clayton made any other references to Vernon? They would have been almost exact contemporaries, having trained on the Britannia.
Anyway, any light you can shed on the episode would be most gratefully acknowledged.
Best regards, Gideon Haigh
Reply from Dr Jones:
Dear Mr. Haigh,
Thank you for your message.
I am afraid I have no other reference to George Valentine Jeffray Vernon, (interesting name!) although I notice that he does not appear to be in Navy List of Midshipmen in 1901/2/03 as might be expected.
Your letter is very interesting, I would be happy to put it on the web site if you wish. You may elicit some further information….
Best wishes in your quest.